The presidential office appears to be trying to shift some of the blame for the escalating woes from the Park Geun-hye scandal to the parliamentary opposition, seemingly as part of a desperate political tactic to block a breakup of the administration.
A Cheong Wa Dae official has raised the necessity of naming a new prime minister as soon as possible to effectively prepare for widening uncertainties in economy and defense. His remarks were targeted at opposition parties, condemning them for delaying the recommendation of a figure.
The unprecedented scheme of setting up a neutral Cabinet -- designed for bipartisan policy coordination -- under the incumbent president is believed to be an expedient artifice against the deepening calls demanding Park step down.
One core issue lies in that the overall economic policies of the incumbent administration did not quite hit the mark. Many of Park’s election pledges, such as the target for “economic democratization” in 2012, have become illusive goals.
Past policies including the hike in cigarette taxes by 80 percent and extended tax benefits for conglomerates were far from achieving democratization. These moves have widened income disparity.
A record number of middle-and low-income households are saddled with huge debt from the state-led promotion to take mortgages by drastically easing rules and interest rates over the past two years. This implies risks of a housing bubble, which may burst within one or two years amid the nation’s all-time high consumer debt worth about 1.3 quadrillion won ($1.1 trillion).
Despite the policy failures, the presidential office is still exploiting negative economic indices at home and abroad to put the blame on the Assembly. However, the office is no longer qualified to administer policies, given the civillians’ influence-peddling scandal involving Park’s confidante Choi Soon-sil. The public will no longer trust or support any of her future policies.
If Park fully entrusts a prime minister with economic strategies, it would be hard to expect that foreign leaders are willing to sign pacts like free trade agreements with the second-tier counterpart of South Korea. Park’s taking on the diplomatic role is nonsense in the context. The economic and business segments are the core in international gatherings such as the G-20, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, ASEAN plus Three and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Meanwhile, it is irrefutable that the main opposition was also naive: Moon Jae-in, a former lawmaker and presidential hopeful of the Democratic Party of Korea, issued the necessity of forming a neutral Cabinet. His proposal came right after the Park-Choi irregularities initially hit the society.
Cheong Wa Dae’s superficial opinion is also applicable to the defense sector.
Choi and others are also suspected of having meddled in the nation’s tension with Pyongyang in 2015, when Seoul decided to shut down the inter-Korean industrial park in Kaesong. Park had also allegedly leaked some confidential documents to nongovernment confidants.
Those allegations could mean a critical loophole in national security, though Park has continued to stress the importance of military readiness against the North’s provocations.
The presidential office, nevertheless, claims that the best solution to the current fiasco is to give Park authority of foreign policies after yielding her power regarding domestic policies to a prime minister. However, it should be aware that Park has lost credibility to negotiate with the world’s superpowers in addressing countermeasures against the North’s nuclear arms tests.
Even under an ordinary circumstance without the Park scandal, the idea of splitting domestic and foreign policies basically goes against the Constitution.
If she is really worried about the national economy and security after her apologies, it would be better for her to seriously reflect public sentiment rather than being obstinate.
According to a Realmeter poll on 532 arbitrary citizens, 60.4 percent of the respondents picked Park’s resignation or the National Assembly’s impeachment of her as solutions to the administrative crisis, as of Nov. 9. The percentage has risen, from 55.3 percent on Nov. 2 and 42.3 percent on Oct. 25.